BELIEFS & VALUES
At First Church, our core belief is that God is love, and because God loves the world in Jesus Christ, we value each other as created in God’s loving image. Everything we say and do as a congregation flows from that basic belief and value. We are a genuinely welcoming congregation. As a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), we are happy to be totally inclusive.
Being Presbyterian refers to a theological heritage started by Martin Luther and refined by John Calvin and John Knox.
The roots of the Presbyterian Church go all the way back to Protestant Reformation, led by Martin Luther. In 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 “theses” or questions for discussion on the church door (the town bulletin board) of his town in Wittenburg, Germany. Because of the recent invention of the printing press, within two weeks Luther’s disagreements with existing church doctrine were circulating all over Europe. The Protestant Reformation had begun.
The new reforms within the church soon attracted a bright young student in France, named John Calvin. Calvin, a lawyer by trade, wrote a brilliant articulation of this “reformed” faith, at age 29. He called it, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. People now refer to it as Calvin’s Institutes. His work attracted great attention because of its insight, depth, and clarity. Calvin eventually would settle in the town of Geneva, Switzerland and become an important figure in the new reformation of the church. The Presbyterian Church today finds it theological roots in the writings of John Calvin.
Second in importance to John Calvin in the history of Presbyterianism is John Knox. He lived in Scotland in the mid-1500s. He led the Reformation in Scotland following Calvinist principles, protesting against the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, and Catholic practices. His ideas set the moral tone for the Church of Scotland and also shaped its democratic form of government. Among many books and manuscripts, Knox was instrumental in the writing of the Scots Confession along the first Book of Order and Book of Confession.
Presbyterianism in America
Since the colonial period, Scottish Presbyterianism has had a strong presence in the United States of America. Reformed churches were first established in the early 1600s with Presbyterians shaping the religious and political life of the newly established nation. The only Christian minister to sign the Declaration of Independence, was Reverend John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian.
In many ways, the United States is founded on a Presbyterian point of view, with emphasis on hard work, discipline and the building of a better world. Presbyterians were instrumental in the movements for women's rights, the abolition of slavery, and temperance. Just preceding the Civil War, the church broke into two separate denominations, which reunited in 1983. Our denomination’s official name is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). This is the “mainline” Presbyterian denomination, a body of 1.4 million believers in over 9,000 congregations.
What Presbyterians Believe
Protestant. We come from the protestant Reformation that began in the 1500’s with the theological thought of Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Knox.
Reformed and always reforming. We try to always reform our life and practice, both individually and corporately, according to the teachings of scriptures.
Elected by God’s grace. We believe we have been chosen by God’s grace. However, this election is not primarily for privilege, but rather for service. It leads us to gratitude and assurance in our faith, and is best recognized in retrospect.
Saved to share the good news with the world around us. Missions have always been a strong emphasis of our denomination.
Confessional. Our life of faith flows from Holy Scripture and is inspired and illuminated by a historic confessional tradition.
Yielded to God for God’s work in the world. This means being good stewards of God’s creation. It means working for peace and justice. We seek to change unjust social structures where they exist.
Thinkers of our faith. We believe that God has given us minds to use for God's service. We believe that the life of the mind is a service to God. Therefore, we study our faith in order to love God with our mind, as well as our heart and soul.
Encouraged by what we believe God can do. Presbyterians tend to balance an undue pessimism about the world with a sense that, with God, all things are possible. We pray for and work for the kingdom of God in the world, knowing that all good things ultimately come from God.
Relying on God’s grace by faith for our salvation. It is not our works, nor our righteousness that saves us. Our salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. No matter how much good we do, we are always sinners saved by grace.
Inspired to worship God in all we do. Worship is our #1 priority. Our primary reason for existence is to “glorify God and enjoy him forever”. We make personal prayer a priority and regularly gather to worship with God’s people.
Attached to one another by bonds of love. Every person matters to God. Every person’s gift is needed in the church. Everyone is of value and worth in God’s sight. We believe that the church is built up by the exercise of God’s peoples’ spiritual gifts therefore we encourage everyone to find a place to serve.
Explore our Faith Tradition